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Window of opportunity to improve the vista

Ben Woodhead (AFR) | Oct. 13, 2008
Microsoft is preparing a new version of Windows that it hopes will help transform the company.

Windows 7's history is closely tied to Vista, raising concerns that it will pick up some of its predecessor's taint. But the creative process is also far more responsive to public demands this time, giving Microsoft a slightly better chance of giving consumers what they want.

How well the company is meeting that objective could become more clear as early as next month when a test version of the package, known as a beta, is released for development partners to play with.

The beta release will provide the most detailed view yet of new features in Windows 7, although some titbits are already known. For one, the operating system will embrace so-called multi-touch technology similar to the gee-whiz touchscreens that are the heart of Apple's iPhone.

Gates has also indicated previously that a big focus will be making it easier for PC owners to move information back and forth between any Windows-powered machine, from internet kiosks, to personal digital assistants and mobile phones.

If it works, that's likely to be a big plus for computer makers who are rapidly broadening the lineup of desktop, mobile and ultra-portable PCs they build as they work to encourage consumers to buy more than one device.

In May, the Microsoft chairman also indicated that ever-popular social networking services and the ability to access word processing and other software programs over the internet through online service Windows Live would be embedded in the new OS.

"We are also building into Windows, of course, things that connect through the internet. We broadly talk about those as Windows Live," Gates told attendees at the Windows Digital Lifestyle Consortium in Japan in May.

"This would include things like photo sharing, social networking and electronic mail. There's a variety of things available and we'll obviously give third parties a great way to plug into Windows to do these things.

"But we'll have some native services like this ability to synchronise your files, or free mail, and we'll be making those dramatically better."

The features are positioning Microsoft to be a player in the emerging market for what are known as cloud computing services, which aim to transform information technology into a utility that businesses and consumers buy and use in much the same way as they buy electricity.

Microsoft software strategist Miha Kralj says a big focus for Microsoft with Windows 7 is ensuring that consumers can access all of the company's software on any device (or client) at any time.

"We see in the future that clients of various types - client in the phone, client in the car, client in your music player - have a significant role. Not everything fits into a device where you use a mouse, keyboard and flatscreen to access information," he says.


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